Tuesday, April 10, 2012

VIDARBHA SUICIDES -‘5 years on, not one family has got promised edu aid’-TIMES OF INDIA

‘5 years on, not one family has got promised edu aid’
Sukhada Tatke

: The Times Of India Mumbai; Date: Apr 10, 2012; Section: Times Nation; Page: 11

Five years after its own committee recommendation, the government has still to dole out educational aid to the children of distressed Vidarbha famers, say activists

Mamta Rathod is still to come to terms with the death of her husband, Dasu, who committed suicide in 2007 after being faced with mounting debts। As if the grief of unexpected widowhood were not enough, the 30-year-old is now left with the burden of educating her five-year-old son Yuvraj. But though there could have been a potential panacea for her woes and those of innumerable other farm widows in the impoverished region of Vidarbha, inaction on the Maharashtra government’s part has kept it at bay.

Last weekend, the Right to Education Act crossed its two-year milestone. But the promises made by the government for children’s education remain unfulfilled, particularly in the suicide capital of the state where they are perhaps needed the most. The plan for this region was drawn up in November 2007 when the then CM Vilasrao Deshmukh set up a one-member panel headed by then Pune university vice-chancellor Narendra Jadhav to suggest ways to arrest the spate of suicides in Vidarbha.

Among other things, Jadhav had recommended that the government provide education to the children of famers from distressed families. “There are 8.89 lakh debt-ridden farmers. Children of 4.34 lakh farmers need financial assistance for completing their education. Government aid will help reduce their financial burden,” Jadhav had stated in his report. The aid was supposed to be provided to children from Amravati, Wardha, Washim, Yavatmal, Akola and Buldhana.

Although the government claims to have spent about Rs 15 crore on 3,74,816 families over four years (the figures exclude Wardha), most of the families in distress deny having received aid of any kind. Ganesh Thakur, divisional commissioner, Amravati, claims that the money was provided. “We have distributed it to the families,” he told TOI. “We are yet to receive Rs 3.62 crore for 2010-11 and are still to spend the Rs 7.49 crore received for 2011-12.”

Activists in Vidarbha reiterate the families’ claims that the money hsd not reached them. “We had been following up the issue with the government for years but have never managed to get any figures on how much money was allocated and spent,” says Kishor Tiwari, leader of the farmer advocacy group Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti.

“It was only last year that they suddenly came up with some figures, claiming that money had been distributed. We haven’t found a single family which has received grantin-aid.” Tiwari alleges that the figures could be false or the money could have been siphoned off en route.

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